Common celery (apium graveolens) is a member of the esteemed zero calorie vegetable group, so if it did clear acne, it would be truly brilliant.
Assuming that were no hidden acne-causing toxins as well, you could eat celery all day long and stack up the acne nutrition to an unlimited extent. Biting into celery is promising, as the strong taste which repels many is actually indicative of nutrition.
The undeniable truth is that celery contains a wide variety of nutrients, as claimed, but not high amounts of them. 50 grams of celery contains 1% of the RDA for magnesium, 2% for vitamin C, 4% for vitamin A, and 0% for zinc. Celery is far feebler for acne nutrition than broccoli, kale or spinach.
Where uncooked and easily available celery really shines for acne is in its ability to improve blood flow to the skin.
Celery dilates your blood vessels
You might know that organic celery powder is used as an alternative way to cure organic bacon and meat. You might know that cured meats like ham are increasingly linked to cancer and that organic celery is touted as a healthier way to make it. But why?
Celery is one of the strongest sources of naturally occurring nitrates, as opposed to synthetically manufactured nitrates. Celery powder contains 2.75% nitrate, and the celery vegetable itself, including the leaves, is just as rich in it. Celery ranks among the most nitrate rich foods alongside spinach and beetroot…
…and these nitrates are why celery is so excellent for blood flow. As you eat natural nitrates in celery, benign bacteria on your tongue ferment them and produce nitrinines as metabolites. As you swallow celery, benign bacteria in your gut ferment the nitrinines and turn them to nitric oxide.
Nitric oxide is a vasodilating gas, used for immune system functions like killing bacteria, but most importantly for relaxing blood vessels to ensure blood flow. It’s vital for heart function and blood pressure, but also encourages blood flow to the extremities. That includes the brain and your skin.
Higher levels of nitric oxide in the body increase oxygen flow to your skin and enhance your overall skin tone. Improved blood flow can also prevent acne via increased flow of acne nutrients and antioxidants. Since celery is able to increase nitric oxide levels significantly, celery can also improve blood flow and acne.
The natural nitrates are the main compounds behind this, but there’s also a less known compound called 3-n-butyl phthalide. This celery-specific compound joins forces with another one called sedanolide to provide the unique flavour of celery. It’s not the most researched obscure compound in a vegetable, but it is well researched for enhancing blood flow. In fact, the Chinese government approved NBP as an official remedy for obstructed brain blood flow (cerebral ischemia) back in 2002.
This study and this study found that 3-n-butylphalide increased cerebral flood flow significantly. This study found that this celery compound increased cerebral blood flow by enough to prevent neuron death; could it prevent skin cell death?
This study also found that orally ingested 3-n-butyl-phalide led to a strong increase in blood levels, so the benefits aren’t imaginary. NPB is actually known to increase capillary formation in the brain while strengthening the structure of existing capillaries and enhancing microcirculation. Improved brain blood flow isn’t guaranteed to translate to improved skin blood flow at all, but the potential is there, in addition to the nitrates.
Combining both compounds, we have this study on celery itself, where analysing data from the population revealed a strong inverse relationship between celery consumption and blood pressure. 12 vegetables were analysed and only 3 reduced blood pressure significantly when eaten raw: celery, tomatoes, and scallions. This broader study on plant based nitrates from celery, lettuce, spinach and other vegetables found that they improved blood flow during both rest and exercise.
The great thing about celery is that you can snap off a stalk and enhance your skin’s blood flow at any time. Broccoli and kale are excellent foods for acne, but celery is extra convenient.
Inflammation and antioxidants
The blood flow and skin tone enhancement is easily celery’s best power for acne, but there’s some strong if not astonishing bonus powers too.
The first is reducing inflammation. There’s one celery expert called James Duke who claims to have identified over 20 anti-inflammatory compounds in celery. Is he correct? One of the flavonoid antioxidants in celery is called luteolin. Celery is claimed to be extremely rich in this compound, and luteolin is able to decrease numerous pro-inflammatory chemicals behind acne, including interleukin-1b, TNF-a, and COX-2 in both the brain and blood.
The problem? Luteolin is claimed to be celery’s signature compound by almost everyone, but its levels aren’t actually that high. The content of 1.05mg per 100 grams beats broccoli (0.00mg), spinach (0.74mg) and kale (0.00mg), but is actually beaten by red grapes (1.30mg). The myth might have started because Chinese celery, a thinner Asian subspecies with more leaves, contains 34.87mg per 100 grams.
A far superior flavonoid is apigenin, found in celery in concentrations of 2.85mg per 100 grams. Apigenin was found to inhibit the pro-inflammatory chemical COX-2 in one study, the same pain-increasing agent which aspirin inhibits. This time, celery’s content of apigenin is beaten by parsley (215.46mg), but few mainstream foods, although if you’re stuck in China, you’re in luck because Chinese celery contains 24.02mg.
Overall, grocery store celery is decently anti-inflammatory, and for antioxidants, it’s also decent. The antioxidant types found in celery include apigenin and luteolin, and also quercetin, kaempferol, and ferulic acid.
Most of them are found in good but not monstrously sized doses. Quercetin, for example, is found in 0.39mg concentrations in celery compared to 15.16mg in boiled asparagus, 14.84mg in raw cranberries, and 21.4mg in raw brown onions. However, celery does have powers to enhance your body’s own antioxidant factories; this study found that an extract of flavonoids from celery had a positive effect on the body’s superoxide dismutase and catalase output, in addition to glutathione-s-transferase (the detoxification form of glutathione, which eliminates heavy metals and pesticides).
Remember to always eat the leaves of celery. They’re the strongest tasting part of the plant, and that’s a sign of a well known fact, the fact that most of the antioxidants are concentrated there. A connected piece of advice is therefore to look for the celery bunch in the supermarket with the most leaves, because some bunches contain next to none.
Among other green vegetables, the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties are weaker than average, but useful as a bonus acne benefit. The main reason to eat celery is vasodilation.
The one factor that can ruin celery
Celery stalks have very few downsides which are innate to the plant. The sugar is non-existent at 1.8 grams per 100 grams. Celery is one of the happy low to moderate oxalate foods; 100 grams contains just 11-20mg, unlike spinach and almonds with 750-800mg and 380-470mg respectively. Oxalates are the natural plant toxins behind kidney stones, which have no effect on acne in most, but can increase inflammation in the sensitive.
The truth is clear – celery is not one of the foods with strong acne benefits but hidden natural dangers, which have to carefully arranged like pistachios. The problem celery does have is completely artificial – pesticides.
Celery is one of the single worst agricultural crops for pesticide, herbicide, and insecticide contamination. Year after year, it ranks in the dirty dozen of foods with the highest number of agrochemical residues. In 2010, celery ranked 1st. In 2014, it ranked 4th, while in 2017’s edition, celery ranked 9th behind strawberries, peaches and apples. There’s been a decontamination over the years, but 9th out of 48 commercial crops tested is pretty grim.
One of the dreaded chemicals is acephate, an insecticide which is used to kill biting and sucking insects such as aphids. This was found on 34.7% of celery crops in 2010, and pertinently for acne, is linked to an increase in oxidative stress when ingested. Acephate is so effective at reducing antioxidants that when scientists wish to test a nutrient or herb for its ability to increase antioxidants, acephate is sometimes used to decrease them in the first place.
Acephate also has toxic effects on human sperm and is a strong xenoestrogen. If you know anybody who’s struggling to conceive a baby then celery could be why. The good thing is that acephate has a half life of 10 to 15 days, but by that time, your celery will be rotting away.
This is just one example of a pesticide. The thing about pesticides in fruit and vegetables is that one individual source won’t be strong enough to derail your skin. But the more pesticide-drenched foods you eat, the more the depletion in antioxidants will accumulate. It’s like chemicals in cosmetics; one chemical which you swallow while brushing your teeth with toothpaste won’t give you acne, but add in mouthwash and tap water, and then shampoo, make-up, and handwash chemicals which are absorbed through the skin, and your fate will be different.
That’s why you should always eliminate as many minor sources of acne-causing environmental chemicals as you can. Show no mercy to any of them, including celery, to avoid cumulative damage.
Some overly relaxed people might tell you that simply washing celery under a tap will remove the pesticides. Well, before their agrochemical examinations, the FDA not only washes celery, they wash and dry it with a high grade industrial washing machine, and after that process, it is still laden with the chemicals above.
The advantage we have is that organic celery is one of the cheaper organic vegetables, unlike the highly expensive organic raspberries or blueberries. Celery is also one of the vegetables to have been compared to its conventional counterpart. Calcium and magnesium levels were no different, but ascorbic acid, or vitamin C, was 118.18% higher in the organic celery, while zinc was 47.93% higher. Those nutrients are almost non existent in celery anyway, but the more rewarding implication is that the antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds might become richer too.
If you’re hunting for acne nutrition on a tight budget, then sweetcorn (not acne-friendly), avocados, pineapples, cabbage and onions were the five cleanest crops this year.
A brain health booster?
Over the last decade, the thickest clouds of speculation swirling around celery have been its cognitive function powers. Simply eating celery is widely said to improve your memory massively. Is it true? Celery can enhance your brain health, but sadly, the powers are tiny compared to their reputation, because they centre around luteolin. Luteolin itself is very interesting:
STUDY ONE: the study which gave celery its reputation tested luteolin on mice who woke up to find that they were trapped in a maze. 26 adult mice and 26 young mice were equally divided into groups fed either nothing or 20mg of luteolin daily. Luteolin supplementation improved their spatial awareness and allowed them to escape this maze. The older, senile mice taking luteolin performed equally to the younger mice taking nothing.
STUDY TWO: luteolin supplementation was able to restore the spatial awareness and memory loss caused by Alzheimer’s disease (study).
STUDY THREE: once again, luteolin could reverse learning and memory deficits in rats, and improve transmissions between brain synapses as well (study). The conclusion: “flavonoid luteolin shows great potential… for protecting synaptic function and enhancing memory“.
STUDY FOUR: one of the biggest changes in the brain associated with Alzheimer’s is the accumulation of amyloid plaques, which mostly consist of amyloid-β peptides. In this rat study, luteolin was able to reverse both memory and learning impairment caused by amyloid-β peptide accumulation. There were also increases in brain antioxidant levels, with glutathione and superoxide dismutase increasing.
The luteolin antioxidant itself is promising for brain health, but like with inflammation, the luteolin content of celery is too small. 1.05mg per 100 grams is far too insignificant in isolation. The first study used 20mg daily and humans are much bigger than mice too.
Again, a myth has sprung forth and spread that celery is one of the greatest luteolin sources ever, when it’s slightly better than most vegetables. There will be only a small benefit, although the opportunity expands considering the cerebral brain flow-boosting 3-n-butylphalide…
…but the opportunity isn’t lost. Why? You can just eat the real luteolin-rich foods. Chinese celery contains 34.87mg per 100 grams. The greatest known sources of luteolin are mexican oregano (1028.75mg), celery seed spice (811.41mg), juniper berries (69.05mg), thyme (45.25mg), and radicchio (37.96mg). Celery seeds being extremely rich in luteolin is probably another reason for celery’s reputation.
As for popular foods, thyme is easily accessible, and other rich foods include sage (16.70mg) and parsley (19.75mg). You can buy celery seeds in bulk on amazon and use them as a spice in recipes. Herbs and spices are the way forward.
Fruits and vegetables which rank similarly to celery include red grapes (1.30mg), green kiwi fruits (0.74mg), chicory greens (2.08mg), canataloupe melons (0.64mg), and lemons (1.90mg). If you combine various foods which are merely decent like this, including celery, the brain benefits might finally appear. It’s like the opposite of the pesticide problem; celery is disappointing on its own, but much better when you stack it up with other luteolin sources.
If you’re a brain boosting obsessive as well as an acne-clearing enthusiast, these are some top foods to include.
For raw acne-clearing strength, celery is inferior to broccoli, kale, and spinach, but organic celery beats them easily for improving blood flow to the skin in an instant. Spinach is also rich in natural nitrates, but you can’t grab a handful of leaves out of the fridge and eat them in five seconds.
The official judgement is that celery is a weaker than average vegetable for the bread and butter acne powers of antioxidants and inflammation. In a one on one duel, broccoli would win.
However, what this also illustrates is how different foods have different roles in your acne strategy, and why the smart acne patient eats a wide variety. Organic celery improves blood flow, and then you have broccoli with its anti-inflammatory sulforaphane. Kale has high amounts of vitamin A while onions and garlic provide the raw materials for glutathione formation through their high sulphur content.
Even though some fruits and vegetables beat each other head to head, almost every plant food has one specific power for acne, aside from maybe cucumbers.
Thanks for reading!